Dollars and Sense: the ARU, Club Rugby and the Five Year Plan – Green and Gold Rugby
Queensland Premier Rugby

Dollars and Sense: the ARU, Club Rugby and the Five Year Plan

Dollars and Sense: the ARU, Club Rugby and the Five Year Plan

The last few weeks have seen something of a civil war within Sydney rugby circles, with big Premier clubs on one side, and the ARU on the other.

I’ll start this article with a disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any Sydney Premier club, nor am I affiliated with the ARU in any way. I have played rugby for the past 20 or so years, at junior clubs, schools and now for a low-grade Sydney suburban club (I am still confident that this pathway will lead me to a spot in the Wallabies 2019 RWC team). So I’d like to think I am coming at this with a neutral perspective.

And I think that needs to be said, because so far this issue is ripe with hidden and not-so-hidden agendas on both sides. I know this is a long post but please bear with me, as it’s a complex issue and can’t be half-arsed (Matt Rowley will be looking at the other side of the argument in coming days).

The issue

In the blue corner... Brett Papworth

In the blue corner… Brett Papworth

To briefly summarise the debate so far, the ARU is set to release its five year strategic plan, which outlines the broad direction for the code over the coming years, and how the influx of TV cash will be spent. Though nothing has been publicly released yet (another disclaimer: I haven’t seen the report, but I have seen an outline containing basic details), representatives of Sydney Premier Rugby clubs have claimed that they won’t be receiving any of these newfound funds.

This debate boiled over last week, with Eastwood President and former Wallaby Brett Papworth penning an article on Rugby News which goes right at the throat of the ARU, and its perceived management issues. It has struck a chord, and been circulated widely through the rugby community. He has since followed up his article, firing a few more shots at the ARU but also tempering some of his more strident comments.

There is no doubting Papworth’s passion, and his commitment to the game. Anyone who gives up their own time to serve as a club volunteer should be applauded, and I know through work at my own club that it can be thankless, demanding work. But there is more complexity to this debate than he makes out.

What about the ARU?

To make sense of this whole debate, we need to go right back to basics and ask ourselves one question – what is the purpose of the ARU? It seems like a basic question but the answer is critical to this discussion.

To me, the ARU has two functions within our game: the first is to ensure as many people are playing rugby as possible, and the second is to ensure the continued success of the Wallabies and other national teams (such as men’s and women’s 7s, Wallaroos, u20s etc).

In the red corner... Bill Pulver

In the red corner… Bill Pulver

With a limited amount of funding available (as much as we’d love it to be unlimited), the ARU must direct all of its investment to serve these two aims. For every dollar spent, they must ask themselves two questions: will this help bring more people to play our game? And will this help the performance of our national teams?

What about the clubs?

I think it’s important to make a differentiation here that Papworth does not- ‘grassroots’ is a term that is bandied around like, well, a rugby ball during this debate and it can mean a few things. Is the Shute Shield or Queensland Premier Rugby ‘grassroots’? I don’t think so. Not at Eastwood, where players are getting upwards of $200 a game to play. But local junior districts? Yes.

It is in Papworth’s interest to lump the two together, but I think a better analysis of the issue would separate these two apart, especially when it comes to the issue of ARU funding.

In years gone by, the Shute Shield would fall under the second of the ARU’s goals. They were a valuable step between school rugby and representative rugby. But as the game becomes more and more professional, with junior squads, EPS programs and now the NRC and under 20s competition, the clubs are rapidly losing relevance in this discussion.

The cold, hard fact of the matter is the ARU cannot be at all certain that a dollar spent on Shute Shield rugby will help the performance of the Wallabies, and would much rather spend on under 20s programs and NRC where the benefits are much more clear.

But for junior clubs it’s a different story. Are they capable of fulfilling the ARU’s first goal of bringing more players to the game? The answer is certainly yes. Junior clubs are a vital part of our game, and investment in these clubs is critical. And yes includes Shute Shield clubs with extensive junior networks like Manly or Eastwood.

The ARU need to do more to support these junior clubs. They are doubling grassroots investment (from $5 million to $10 million), with a commitment to increase the number of Development Officers working to promote the game. I’d hope to see an investment in junior clubs as well, to back up the work of these DOs and ensure that we keep as many young people in our game as possible. We will see if this is included in the plan.

Going personal, facing the future

But instead of making this the focus of their case, Papworth and Dwyer have taken the personal route. They pitch this debate as a case of the grassroots devotees’ vs the corporate ARU lackeys, with one side only caring for the game and the other only caring for the bottom line.

Is this really the case though? Papworth is a rugby man but is also clearly looking after the interests of Eastwood as well. He wants more money to NSW. He barely makes any mention of Western Sydney, which represents a massive untapped player base (and clubs like Parramatta and Penrith are still struggling, and clearly should be considered differently than Eastwood or Randwick when it comes to funding). He barely even mentions junior rugby, which is where the money actually needs to go. No mention of women’s rugby, or 7s, again both areas with massive potential for growth. He then derides Viva 7s, the ARU’s attempt to diversify their game offerings to compete with the NRL’s Touch Football juggernaut.

These may be waved away by Eastwood and co as costly distractions to the main product, but I think that reaction in many ways sums up the shortcomings of their argument. They are clinging to a game that really doesn’t exist anymore. The Shute Shield is no longer the only game in town, and is in fact declining in importance every season.

Viva 7s - a costly distraction or the future of the game?

Viva 7s – a costly distraction or the future of the game?

Getting people to play the game is now harder than it ever was, with Subbies clubs also on a rapid decline (another part of the ‘grassroots’ that Papworth doesn’t mention). I applaud the ARU’s attempt to diversify into Women’s, 7s and non-contact rugby, as they finally seem to have grasped the direction the world of participation sport is heading. Will Viva 7s work? Maybe, maybe not. But I think it’s a worthwhile venture nonetheless.

Papworth wants to reinforce the foundations of the game, while the ARU is looking to expand. There is a middle ground here, and I think it’s where the solution lies going forward.

Empowering the coalface

Before I go too far in praise of the ARU, though, I do need to acknowledge Papworth’s best point, which was the below paragraph:

“As a first step, why not hand some of the development responsibility back to the clubs and the local areas. You don’t need to own it, and we have done it well over the years. Vibrant local clubs, at all levels, can have a big impact on the local community, and it might enable us to gain back a bit of ground against the other codes. And it will make a huge difference to the culture and the longer term development of players.”

It’s a basic truth that in most cases people at the coalface will have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t than head office. Now Papworth’s statement contains a few assumptions and a few unjustified uses of the word ‘we’ (have all areas ‘done it well over the years’?? The evidence would suggest that some have and some, in fact, have not), but it’s where Papworth’s best argument essentially lies.

The challenge for the ARU is developing a coherent, national strategy (and yes it should be national, not just isolated to traditional strongholds) that allows local districts to have some say in how new players are attracted to the game, and some control over the means of doing so. And the ARU should let successful areas do their thing, while stepping in to take control if things aren’t working elsewhere.

An idea I’d like to see implemented is a fund (say, $250k a year) for junior clubs to apply for to help attract new players to the game. They would have to submit a costed proposal, including numerical targets, and report on how they went. But it could be used for flyers, training camps, new equipment, school promotions etc. A simple way to empower clubs to do what works best for them, while ensuring a good chance of a return for the game as a whole.

Where does the Shute Shield and Queensland Premier Rugby fit?

It’s easy to argue that junior clubs should receive financial support from head office. The case for the Shute Shield, and indeed Queensland Premier Rugby, is less clear. I haven’t been presented with any coherent arguments that they deserve any ARU funding going forward. Yes they have a proud history in our game, and yes they still have a role to play. This doesn’t mean they deserve to be funded by the ARU, though.

Shute Shield is now closer to Subbies than the Wallabies

Shute Shield is now closer to Subbies than the Wallabies

We must refer back to the two core questions – are they helping the Wallabies? I don’t think so. Are they attracting players to the game? I don’t think so. The ARU are apparently funding their TV deal, which I think is appropriate (though I wonder why we can’t strike a similar deal for Premier Rugby up north?). I love a bit of Shute Shield rugby on a Saturday arvo. But it’s not as important to our game as the NRC, or the under 20s, or the sevens, or the women’s teams.

There is a case these Premier Grade competitions help the odd player who ‘slips through the cracks’ of the development pathways. They miss selection in a squad and all of a sudden they can’t get a look in and are forced to toil through the ranks of club footy. This is a fair argument, but these examples are few and far between, and there is a decent chance any funds wouldn’t reach these young colts and rather end up in the pocket of 1st grade recruits (an eventuality Papworth could have ruled out, but to this point has not).

Looking forward, looking back

Rugby is a game that has too often been accused of clinging to its past, the grand traditions of years gone by, at the expense of moving with the times. The ARU is on a hot streak of success at the moment which is almost unprecedented: the success of the Wallabies, the growth of the NRC, the new TV rights deal, the Sydney 7s and more. Now it seems they are attempting to shift the game to new frontiers.

On a conceptual level I think this should be applauded, but they must be careful not to leave the faithful behind. I don’t think they have handled this as well as they could have.

I have numerous issues with Papworth’s arguments and the way he has made them, but there is no doubting he represents a considerable portion of the Australian rugby public. And there is also no doubting his commitment to the game, and the fact that he essentially wants the same thing as the ARU at the end of the day, the same thing we all want – more people playing and more success for our national teams.

It’s up to the ARU to ensure this faction of our game have a seat at the table. It’s the challenge of running a game with such history, but so many future challenges. Like it or not, the big Sydney and Brisbane clubs need to be brought on the journey too.

Now we await the five year plan, where we can separate the truth from the fiction on both sides and truly see what the ARU are made of.

  • SuckerForRed

    Good read Baabaa. I, like you, thought that Papworth had some good points but also some of his shots were a bit wide of the mark.

    Can I ask you to do something for us poor bastards who don’t live & play in Brisbane or Sydney – What IS the “Pathway to Gold”? How is it structured? How is it meant to work? How is it working?

    Outside the major centres, or at least with my experience, there is a major gap in the pathway that “we” don’t get access to. This mean that we lose kids in their teenage years and need to work doublely hard to get them back as adults. For me this Illistrates one of the problems with the strategy. Attracting players is one thing. We also need to retain them.

    • Who?

      Good point SFR. In our region, we lost our excellent DO in March last year. The QRU tried to find a new one, then gave up, so the replacement – found by the sub-union – didn’t arrive until August. He did a good job – part time (because he was always being called to Brisbane) – until such time as he was promoted to a role in Brisbane. Meaning we once again have no local DO.
      One of the crazy points made by the Sydney-centric protestors is that Junior Gold Cup and the like are a problem. In my region, we have issues with the timing of it (we’re the only region crazy enough to play our teenage comp during Term 1), but better to have it than have nothing else! Because we get nothing else. How else are kids supposed to get a taste of the next level of coaching and competition?
      Hugh, that’s the best written, most balanced article I’ve seen on this. It’s not claiming that a tiny fraction of the Rugby world running at a semi pro level is the grass roots and in dire need of funding, yet it’s not spending all its time refuting such spurious claims. It’s much less Sydney-centric than everyone else (I haven’t seen too many writers defending funding nationwide – a viewpoint I share). Very well balanced article.

  • Jets

    Good article Hugh. I agree with some of what you are saying. The ARU investing in the Women’s game, 7’s and Viva 7’s are all things that have to happen, anyone who doesn’t see that is short sighted. I feel that you do undervalue the role that Premier Clubs play in the development of players. I will be Queensland bias as that is what I know but I am sure the case is the same in Sydney.

    I would argue that Premier Clubs still play a vital role in the development pathway of layers going from Schoolboys to Super teams (making Wallabies play better as yu put it). Yes they have the opportunity to play in the newly formed U20 comp (another good initiative) and the NRC but it doesn’t really teach you anything about a players ability to stand up over a longer season. Most of these guys play in an 8 game GPS comp at school, might play 5 games in an U20 comp and then run around in a 10 game NRC season. What they don’t get in that is the requirement to back up, week after week over 6 months.

    A huge issue with players who leave school is their inability to be consistent for long periods. Also they need to be tested against some older, more experienced heads. Premier Rugby gives them both of these. We have a Colts comp for players to work on their consistency and then they can step up to Premier Grade when the coaches feel they are ready to test themselves against some old bulls.

    A couple of examples of this are Sam Greene and Tongan Thor. Greene was a schoolboy star who was overlooked for U20’s. He played in Premier Rugby and has been tested playing against quality opposition most weeks. He then made the step up to NRC with Qld Country and I’m sure by the end of the season will get some exposure at Super Level. Tongan Thor is a young guy who is doing well in the U20’s and was a schoolboy star in NZ. What he learnt last year playing Premier level as a prop is what will potentially make him a quality player in the future. He is learning the ‘dark arts’ from guys that are happy to put him in his place.

    I think Premier Rugby plays an extraordinarily important role in the development in the players of the future. The one thing about this I do agree with though is that Premier Clubs don’t need funding so they can pay players. They should spend any funding they get on facilities and development of players and coaches.

    • Braveheart81

      I don’t think anyone denies that it is vitally important for these competitions to exist for players who aren’t playing Super Rugby every week to get more experience playing a good level of rugby.

      I guess the flipside is that will these competitions cease to exist without more ARU funding? I tend to think not. People will still be playing rugby and there will naturally be a top grade however it is structured that the best players playing club rugby will play in.

    • Hugh Cavill

      Thanks Jets, these are great points. If only Brett Papworth could make them in his article!

      I think the ARU knows this, but the issue of player payments hangs over the whole debate. Your last paragraph is key. The Shute Shield clubs should come out and tell us how much money they need, and where the money will be spent. If they were smart, they would say it will go towards gym facilities, scrum machines, coaching courses etc.

      Instead there is a good likelihood it will end up in the pockets of first graders as clubs chase Premierships at the expense of development.

      • Who?

        The other point, Hugh, and one I’ve made to other people, is that Premier Rugby and the Shute Shield are now – rightly – the fourth tier. Until a couple of years ago, we had multiple third tiers. A true third tier always had to be national. And if it’s nationally organized, it needs to be nationally financially controlled. Let’s not forget, the ARU didn’t fully fund the NRC, there was the expectation that the teams themselves should be sustainable. And that’s the third tier.
        Shute Shield and Premier Rugby are now the fourth tier. They’re state-based. As such, isn’t it incumbent upon the state unions to ensure the survival, longevity and quality of their competitions..? Is the AFL responsible for the VFL, the WAFL, the SANFL? Is the ARL responsible for the Qld Cup? I’m not certain, but I don’t think they are… Similarly, the ARU shouldn’t be responsible for the state-based competitions. They should continue to look after national comps (like NRC, JGC, U20’s), and also look to better promote the game (the AFL has Auskick, the QRU has Rookies 2 Reds).
        It’s also worth noting that Jets’ point above is the first non-Sydney defence of funding to the fourth tier. Everything else has come from Shute Shield people. Which makes me wonder how much Premier Rugby gets, in comparison..?
        I completely get that players – especially in smaller numbered jerseys – need the fourth tier. A winger or fullback might be the final package at 20, but a prop doesn’t hit their prime until the 30’s. That said, if you’re playing 4th tier, with no NRC, there’d have to be a big incentive to head over to France/Japan/Italy to play… Unless you’ve got more in your life than just Rugby. And, if you’re a 4th tier player, with no prospects of advancement in the next couple of years, and nothing in your life bar Rugby, it’s time to go find a job!

    • Phil Z

      To the point Jet, I agree completely. The ARU need to be careful as these “old clubs” are the backbone of rugby in Australia. It all well and good to have the NRC, u 20’s and 7’s etc but you need the hardcore competition. This is where some of the “non-textbook” skills are maintained from generation to generation. I’m ambivalent to a need to “grow at all costs” sport. Rugby in this country will always ebb and flow depending on the results of major teams. This is one of the major problems from being the 4th ranked football code in this country. Rugby in Australia has growth at a phenomenal rate since the 1970’s as I’m sure it will continue to grow, but at what pace? I think Rugby, like Rugby League to a certain degree, is going to suffer from it being a hard contact sport, and many mothers (and fathers for that matter) not wanting their son or daughter to become injured or hurt.

      On another point, for mine I’d rather watch a Shute Shield game (even though from Queensland) then the 20’s and most of the NRC games. I think we can get too top heavy, in terms of players payments (particularly at the top) and I think long-term that is a trap unless the results are there to be seen.

  • Ryanno

    The ARU is right to be concerned about funding being used to pay Shute Shield players but there are plenty of ways to ensure this doesn’t happen. E.g in the case of Eastwood they might get a yearly grant of $X that is not a cash payment but would be in the form of the club submitting expenses that need to be approved by ARU or NSWRU auditors. Expenses submitted need to be for items like jerseys, equipment, promotional expenses e.t.c

  • Brett McKay

    This is a really good piece, Baabaa, devoid of emotional ranting.
    The one thing I’ve not understood in all this, is that the ARU have stated that they would prefer to direct the money that previously went to Shute Shield clubs directly, to the NSWRU, you know, the organisation charged with running rugby in the state in which the Shute Shield clubs reside.
    So why aren’t the Shute Shield clubs asking the questions around the funding of the NSWRU now, rather than attacking the ARU? If the concern is that they won’t see any of that money from NSWRU, then surely that’s a question for the governance of the NSWRU, is it not?

    • Who?

      With some good reporting amongst the publicly driven Rugby media (Hugh and the team here, yourself and your colleagues), maybe we’ll start to see better outcomes than the inflammatory rubbish we’ve seen from the majority of pieces in ‘mainstream’ media.
      With some good reporting amongst the publicly driven Rugby media (Hugh and the team here, yourself and your colleagues), maybe we’ll start to see better outcomes than the inflammatory rubbish we’ve seen from the majority of pieces in ‘mainstream’ media.

    • RobC

      Brett. This is what I understand.

      2014: The Shute clubs were told by Pulver that the funding was temporarily discontinued to help create the NRC and stymie the red ink

      It was accepted in good faith that when things are better, there was an understanding by the Shute clubs there will be some reward for their contribution.

      Now Pulver has reverted and said: No money. Strategy change, wall pissing, NSW is the only one asking for ARU $ etc. So its understandable that they got upset.

  • Bizzare

    I read through the article and from a junior perspective there are still a few challenges that have been missed, you can’t look at Junior participation and the Wallabies in isolation, so you increase Junior participation, as these Juniors get older where do they play? If you don’t develop Subbies and Premiership clubs if there is nowhere for plays to play they will go elsewhere, unfortunately there are lots of options in League, if the Juniors are strong JGC will be strong, which leads to a strong U20, strong Premiership and strong Wallabies. If Wallabies are the fruit on the tree unless you invest and care for the ENTIRE tree you will get no Fruit, so you buy it from somewhere else or steal it from another tree, easier to go shopping than farming. Moving back to the topic of Juniors, if we have increased numbers where and what is the plan for improving coaching? There is an introductory course, costs $ and a level 2, called something else now costs $440 for 3 days, feel it is aimed at U20+, given 12-18 is the most VITAL link in developing an elite athlete you would think that this world be an area of major focus , but perception (perception IS reality) is that this age group will be handled by the Private Schools. So coach development is a profit Centre, even if it loses money, should be a loss making investment centre, VIVA 7s is aimed as a profit centre for ARU, you’d struggle to convince me it sheets a club a ROI and currently JGC is NOT about developing Junior Clubs or Junior Representative programs, open trials in the off season is about attracting talented League players, school boys and maybe Juniors if they want to play all year round. So my take, ARU needs to look after the entire tree and it will be interesting to see how this happens. Doubling the money from $5m to $10m is nothing, double the $10m and spend it properly on the roots and you might be getting somewhere, no problems with Premiership Clubs being professional, give them a salary cap, but my first spend would be to make ALL the development coaching courses FREE. Improved coaches = improved plays = more players. IT IS NOT NOR SHOULD IT BE WALLABIES FIRST, GET EVERYTHING ELSE RIGHT AND THE WALLABIES WILL LOOK AFTER THEMSELVES. Unfortunately seems to be a simplistic mentality in an Ivory tower.

    • Hugh Cavill

      No-one is suggesting these clubs will fold, though. They existed before the game was professional, and they will still exist long into the future. It’s just that they aren’t particularly deserving of ARU money, they are capable of surviving on their own.

      Agree on the need for more coaching development, I hope those costs are looked at to make it more accessible.

  • Stin

    This is a minor point and You guys know much more than me about all this but I will say, as a parent of 2 primary schools boys, we have had no Union presence at the school or in the inner west (Marrickville) at all this year. We’ve had the Swans visit twice and been fortunate enough to have their internal trial game in our area. The place was packed. I believe the Swans delegate a few players to each school for visits. Wouldn’t be too hard to have a pre season visit to schools from Tahs players – or at very least Sydney UNI or Wests players. Run an afternoon clinic. The kids get such a buzz from meeting any level of player. Anyway…

    • Patrick

      Don’t start me on how much better the AFL does development.

    • RobC

      Yes Stil. It doesnt take much to introduce the game into the school. Just a bit more passion and organisation

      • Stin

        Wouldn’t take much at all. A few players to various schools, some clinics etc. As I said – even from Shute teams, and to follow their visits, some incentive to see them in action on Saturday arvos. Suppose it’s probably already free for kids but Something….

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    This is a good article, thanks Hugh. I must admit it’s nice to read something that hasn’t got a load of emotion firing it up. My 2 cents worth, pun intended, is that the main difference I’ve seen between playing, coaching and refereeing in NZ for 30 odd years and coaching and refereeing here (in ACT) is the resources available for coaches and referees is well short in Australia compared to NZ.
    I agree you need to get the players into the game but good coaching and refereeing that ensures they learn well and also are able to play well is also essential. How many games are not ideal because the referee isn’t really up to the task? I’ve certainly seen a few and I know when I was coaching an U18 team in Canberra I was having to teach basic skills that I wouldn’t have had to teach in NZ.
    I hope the ARU addresses this in its plan as well.

  • Stray Gator

    Great piece. Great, great piece. Unsure about the assertion that Papworth “essentially wants … more people playing [rugby] and more success for our national teams”. Certainly not on the evidence so far. His very public rant has only given the anti-rugby clique more mud to very gleefully chuck. Can’t believe the guy didn’t think about that before he opened fire. Some things are best done through channels.

  • Working Class Rugger

    Well written piece. While you started your comment divulging your lack of affiliation I’ll start my comment stating mine. I once (some time ago now) played for one of the Shute Shield clubs. I still actively follow them and the Shield. However, I believe that all the grassroots funding should to the cent be directed at junior club Rugby as a means to grow the game.

    The only conceivable means in which I would happily provided funds is if they were to present a comprehensive and measurable strategy to the ARU that states their intent on either establishing or expand the junior wing of their club. Even then, the targets would need to be worthwhile.

    What I would prefer to see is both the Clubs and ARU work together to develop a strategy to both attract greater sponsorship interest for the clubs and competition and draw more punters through the gate. Incidently, building a significant junior wing could effectively do this.

    Finally, I would like to see the ARU present a baseline national strategy to get kids actively participating in the game. Not sampling but actively participating. As others have suggested it should also involve a degree of customization in regard to differing needs but ultimately a general strategy for growth is needed. Personally, I’d like to grants issued to junior clubs to grow X number of junior players over 5 years as well as for senior clubs to establish junior wings with similar goals.

  • Gus

    Great article. You rightly start with a question “what is the ARU for” and offer a very reasonable set of goals as an answer but really doesn’t this whole debate spring from a confusion of governing bodies and an uncertainty of direction and responsibility between them? Who is responsible for “grass roots” and school development in Eastwood’s catchment area (however defined) – the club, the NSWRU, the ARU, the Waratahs Community Outreach program (I assume they have one)? I bet they all feel a certain responsibility. I’m very unconnected from all this but I wonder if the professional era changes you mentioned and the increasingly competitive national sports landscape mean we should be re thinking the national/state governance arrangements?

  • RobC

    Excellent topic and points Hugh. Thanks

    re KPIs
    – In addition to the two you mentioned, participation and elite win rates, there is a another metric
    – It should be attendance rates
    – The problem is the diminishing number of games on Aussie soil due to “SR Global”
    – The other problem is that domestic comp is fragmented and small

    re Premier Grade:
    – Whats more important is the 3rd tier
    – Should be over a longer period
    – Some great finds / resurgence: Lelo, Jed H, K, Jono Lance

    re coalface knowing better:
    – I think grassroots can solve the problem better
    – But they need the tools from ARU and Statu RUs
    – Do they have these tools

    For example, one ARU player gets paid what around $250K? Elite gets more.

    The key should be leverage.

    The RUs should attach these players and coaches to priority grassroots areas on a regular basis. Instead of leaving them to their playstations etc

  • Brendan Hume

    It is important to remember with the funding models as they currently exist, Junior players in Country Queensland are paying $20 to the QRU and $27.50 to the ARU, Senior players $10 and $5.50 more. Country regions are grossly under-represented in the share of the funding pie, and much of the funds are directed at developing elite players that will not get an opportunity unless they are participating in a state capital schools program.

    It’s true that Shute & Prem clubs are different to junior clubs, but there is also a vast difference between city and country clubs.

    There are a number of challenges and unfortunately the decision makers don’t represent a large number of the stakeholders. The failure to develop adequate pathways for regional areas is obvious when comparing rugby and it’s elite with the vast production lines of NRL and AFL players who come from all over the nation – both city and country areas.

  • paul

    “The ARU is on a hot streak of success at the moment which is almost
    unprecedented: the success of the Wallabies, the growth of the NRC, the
    new TV rights deal, the Sydney 7s and more. Now it seems they are
    attempting to shift the game to new frontiers.”

    A good article, but are you serious with the above statement. Lets talk it up hey!!!

  • Axemen

    Great article – ARU is definitely not perfect in what they are doing and can get better but Papworth is purely after some coin to line his clubs own pockets misrepresenting numerous issues and wanting to go back to the “good old days”. One that really annoyed my was his references to GOLD CUP creating the privileged elite squads – a competition that was brought in to compete with the NRL junior competitions that was attracting players. 24 teams each in U15 and U17 age groups across all of Australia including country areas – giving 700+ kids in each age group a chance to play and train at a higher level – all done in summer and finished by March/April so not disrupting school/club rugby to any great extent I think is a great concept and pathway and something Papworth stated as as a waste of money. .

  • Johnno

    Like many rugby fans, apathy has set in, and I’m starting to care less and less about rugby in OZ. So many stuff ups by the ARU, GPS rugby not merging with CAS/ISA, it goes on and on. I don’t care like I used to about OZ rugby.

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